Disclaimer - I do not own Avatar: The Last Air Bender. But it would be so awesome if I did.
Author's Note: Thanks for returning you wonderful readers! Just to give you an idea of how updates will happen, I'm aiming for once or twice a week. Thanks for reading, enjoy!
Chapter 2 - Welcome Home
Zuko was not happy. Mai stood across from him matching his glare. Aang was pulling at an invisible thread. "Did you two drink cactus juice?" He finally yelled. That could be the only explanation for what they were asking.
Aang cleared his throat, "Zuko she's your sister. I know what she's done and what it would mean to let her out, but everyone deserves a second chance." He said with a big grin.
Zuko stared daggers at him, "No."
"I said no!"
"Hypocrite." Mai finally spoke.
"What?" Both men turned to look at her.
"You once hunted Aang and our friends gave you more than a second chance."
"I never actually killed him! Azula did!"
"But if you could have? She's a person Zuko, she deserves a second chance." Mai said as she walked closer to her husband.
Zuko didn't move. "Mai, she locked you in the Boiling Rock. She would have killed you. No, Mai. I can't."
Aang could feel the anger radiating from the Fire Lady. She rarely showed any emotions. Always she was in control, only speaking in a monotone voice. "Zuko…"
Mai held her hand up for silence. "You didn't know her like I did Zuko. You didn't hold her when you're mother left. You didn't see her destroy her room when your father banished you. I know Azula is difficult, I know what she has done and is capable of doing. I also know that buried inside of her is a person. A person who became what she was to survive. " With that Mai swiftly left the room.
Zuko and Aang sat in silence. Mai's outburst put Azula in a different light for both men. Zuko stood up. "I need to think about this." Aang followed him out the door.
Zuko sat alone in his master suite. He stared at the red curtains dancing lightly in the breeze from the courtyard he shared with Mai. Could Azula really be capable of emotions? If he was honest he did have good memories of Azula when they were younger.
He was nine and Azula was seven. Ozai was in a war meeting so they were left alone to practice their fire bending. As usual, Azula was going through the routines with flawless ease. Sapphire flames glowed in her small hands. And as usual, Zuko was lucky to get a flickering orange spark.
"You're doing it wrong, Zuzu," her baby voice said.
"I'm just warming up Azula." He spat at her.
Her golden eyes followed his every move. When he was done she walked towards him. "Here, try it like this," she said as she moved his arms and slapped his legs into the proper stance. "Now do it slowly, count to three before you take each stance."
Left arm in front, one, two, three. Right arm jab, one , two, three. He did it. His fire was stronger. "It worked!" He hugged his little sister. "Thanks Azula!"
Her little arms hugged him back. "I'll always help you Zuzu." Her golden eyes smiled brightly at him.
He took her hand, "It's almost dinner time. I'll help you get ready. "
The better she became, the more distance Ozai put between them. Eventually she was spending most of her time following their father's orders. He couldn't pin point a place or time of when their rivalry started but he also couldn't ignore that the bad memories out weigh the good ones. He was snapped out of his thoughts when her heard turtle ducks quaking in the court yard pond. Mai was mindlessly throwing pieces of bread into the water. He watched as her long black hair swirled around her in the breeze. Slowly he left his study and stood next to her.
They didn't say anything to one another for a while. They just watched the turtle ducks eat. Eventually he held her hand and turned her to look at him. "Mai, every logical part of me tells me I'd be a fool to let Azula into our home. However, you have never asked me for anything before. I also know you never act before thinking of all possible consequences through. So if you promise you and Aang will take responsibility over Azula's rehabilitation then she can move in as soon as you see fit."
The Firelady gave her husband a small smile before kissing his lips, "Thank you Zuko."
She sat in front of her vanity mirror. Her glossy raven hair was long again but it was a bit uneven. She looked into her own golden eyes and smirked. She was thinking about the contents in Mai's letter. After six long years she was to be brought back into the world of the living. She would only admit it to herself but she was surprised. She had made peace with her imprisonment a long time ago. She wasn't naïve enough to believe her former friends and Zuko would welcome her with open arms. But if she was honest, didn't a small part of her hope that maybe eventually they would accept her?
She shook her head to rid herself of such thoughts. The problem with imprisonment was all you had were your thoughts. After she was admitted into the asylum, the fog that clouded her the day of Sozin's commit cleared and she reflected. At first she thought of the numerous ways she could have changed her fate. She thought of the humiliation she felt when Zuko and the Water Tribe girl brought her down. She thought of revenge and how the world would pay. Eventually though she slowly began to accept her fate. She had failed.
When Mai's visits became more frequent her thoughts took a new turn. She remembered her days as a child of the palace. She remembered family vacations to Ember Island, tea parties with her cousin Lu Ten, and her days with Mai and Ty Lee at the Royal Fire Academy for Girls. What she didn't realize was that without Ozai and the war consuming her life, her mind and soul could finally heal. However she still had a long way to go before she was recovered.
Ty Lee was throwing various articles of clothing onto the white marble floor. "Oh none of these will do." Mai just watched as her friend emptied the closets and drawers.
"Ty Lee, leave it alone. The servants are trying to clean."
"But Mai, I don't want her to come back to old things. I guess these will do, " she pointed to few articles of clothing she left hanging in the closet. "Do you think Zuko will let me take her shopping for new clothes?"
Mai rolled her eyes at the eagerness in Ty Lee's voice. "Come on, she'll be here soon."
Azula walked the palace halls with her head held high and her eyes looking forward. None of the servants she and her "escorts" passed were brave enough to look the fallen princess in the eye. When she entered the private section of the palace she noticed not much had changed. Seeing the door to her old room brought a smirk to her lips.
The doors to her private rooms were opened and inside were the royal couple, Ty Lee and to her surprise, the Avatar. Ty Lee quickly threw her arms around Azula, "Welcome home, Azula!"